Action research for school improvement

Edited by Anna Riggall, Richard Churches and Alex Elwick

This report is based on seven action research projects undertaken by teachers in CfBT (now Education Development Trust) academies in the school year 2012/13. The action research focused on key aspects of school improvement.

The schools involved in the project received research support that included training in research methods and undertook a small-scale research project within one of three thematic strands. Schools chose the themes for their research themselves and these reflected key strategic priorities. These were:

  • able, gifted and talented learners
  • homework
  • white working-class pupils.

While the majority of studies were led by teaching staff, at The Deepings it was the pupils who took control. Seven Year 12 pupils looked into lessons from the evaluation of a gifted and talented programme. Based on the students' findings, the school decided to continue to develop its able, gifted and talented programme and enrich the opportunities for future children that fall into this category. Meanwhile, at Stamford Queen Eleanor staff conducted an exploratory piece investigating the connections between a psychological analysis tool and an area of pedagogical weakness in teaching; considering the potential for improving one through the other.

At Ely College, the action research focused on homework, highlighting the importance of parental engagement while at Oxford Spires Academy, their particular study underlined the need for consistency across teaching staff in their approach to homework as well as the need for homework to be personalised, meaningful and challenging. At Danum Academy, there was some evidence to suggest that, as a result of the study, the culture of homework at the school had improved and that teacher and pupil behaviour had begun to change.

St Mark's Academy and Mount Street Academy (the latter the only infant school to be involved in the action research) chose to investigate the performance of white, working class pupils, as this was a particular concern for both schools. St Mark's focused their research on the exploration of 'real world' contexts for learning both inside and outside the classroom while at Mount Street, they explored the relationship between different teaching styles on white working class pupils' engagement, behaviour and attitude to learning.